Last summer, we took a look at the first two issues of The Demon — a series created by writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby as a response to DC Comics’ request for him to come up with something in the “horror hero” vein. Although this new feature hadn’t originally been intended to replace Kirby’s beloved “Fourth World” titles on his production schedule — at least, that hadn’t been Kirby’s intent — following the cancellations of both Forever People and New Gods, and the mandated retooling of Mister Miracle, that’s effectively what happened, as both Demon and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth (another series dreamed up by Kirby at DC’s direction) had their publishing frequencies increased from bi-monthly to monthly status within their first three issues, so that by the beginning of 1973, they, along with the still bi-monthly Mister Miracle, effectively absorbed most if not all of the creator’s time and effort. Read More
As was related in our post about Forever People #11 at the beginning of this month, Jack Kirby is reputed to have already begun work both on that comic and on New Gods #11 when he received word from DC Comics that those two issues would be the last for both titles. The official word was that the two series were being “temporarily suspended”; but Kirby seems to have known that this was truly the end for both of his cherished creations, at least for the foreseeable future.
While we’ll probably never know just how far the writer-artist had already gotten in plotting, drawing, or scripting either comic, there can be no doubt that he made whatever adjustments were necessary to be able to provide the readers of both Forever People and New Gods with not just one last adventure of the series’ titular heroes, but with an ending for each. In the case of Forever People, Kirby quite literally took his characters off the field, transporting them across the cosmos to an idyllic planet far from the battlefront between the warring god-worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips. Read More
As I previously covered back in June in my post about the first issue of The Demon, sometime in the first half of 1972 DC Comics requested writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby to come up with a couple of new series concepts to complement the three titles already on his schedule. The results were pitches for what ultimately became The Demon and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth — and DC liked them a lot. Indeed, from Kirby’s perspective, they may have liked them a little too much. Read More
I’ll be honest with you — it feels a little strange to be writing about the first issue of Jack Kirby’s The Demon in June, at a time when I still have my final posts about Forever People and New Gods coming up in August. That’s because for the better part of the past half-century, I’ve tended to categorize the bulk of Kirby’s work at DC Comics in the 1970’s as being either “the Fourth World” or “everything after the Fourth World”. But the fact of the matter is that those categories overlap chronologically, even if only by a couple of months. And that’s significant, I believe, as it reflects the fact that when the writer-artist came up with the series concepts for both The Demon and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth fifty years ago, he thought of them as complementary — and probably secondary — to his ongoing Fourth World epic, rather than as the replacement for that ambitious project that they inevitably became.
Which doesn’t necessarily mean that Kirby would have approached the development of Demon and Kamandi differently, had he known that these two series were what he was going to be spending the majority of his working hours dealing with for the next year or more. But it’s something to think about, at least. Read More
In March, 1972, the lead story of Mister Miracle #8 had ended with a “Coming!” blurb promising that the very next issue would introduce readers to a “lovable old rascal” named Himon — billed not only as the man who’d mentored the series’ titular hero in his craft of escape artistry, but as an updated take on the character Fagin from Charles Dickens’ 1838 novel Oliver Twist. With Ron Moody’s Oscar-nominated performance as Fagin in the 1968 film adaptation of the musical Oliver! still relatively fresh in the pop-cultural memory, readers might have been forgiven for expecting Mister Miracle #9 to be something of a romp — a tale one might read while listening to the movie soundtrack’s renditions of “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” or “I’d Do Anything” playing in the background.
On the other hand, readers who’d been following the “Young Scott Free” back-up feature in the last few issues of Mister Miracle might suspect that such a level of jauntiness would be incongruous (to say the least) in the context of our hero’s upbringing on the hell-planet of Apokolips. But even those readers might not be prepared for the reality of “Himon!” — probably the darkest and most brutal episode of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World epic yet to appear, although one that still ends on a strong note of optimism and hope. Read More
In its design, the cover of New Gods #9 mirrors that of Forever People #9, the other Jack Kirby comic published by DC in April, 1972. Both covers feature a dominant image that excludes the comic’s titular stars, who are shunted off to a narrow. left-side border; both utilize a considerable amount of black in their color schemes, as well. This striking similarity seems unlikely to have been a coincidence.
In his indispensable book Old Gods & New: A Companion to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World (TwoMorrows, 2021), author John Morrow posits that, in both cases, the intent was to boost sales by making the books look less like superhero comics and more like something in the horror-mystery genre, which was then a successful niche for DC. Morrow suggests that this was part of a move by the company’s publisher, Carmine Infantino, to take a heavier hand in setting the course for these two titles, both ostensibly under the editorial control of Kirby. (Another known indicator of that heavier hand was Infantino’s directing Kirby to include Deadman as a guest star in issues #9 and #10 of Forever People, regardless of Kirby’s disinterest in the character.) Read More
In October, 1971, Don and Maggie Thompson’s fanzine Newfangles reported:
There are indications that DC is in serious trouble. Dealers are not too keen on the 25¢ comic book[s], sales are skyrocketing for Marvel, Charlton and Gold Key (GK has 15¢ books, Marvel and Charlton 20¢)… DC’s titles are also reported to be dying in droves on the stands, if they get that far—wholesalers prefer to handle the 20¢ books, apparently.
A couple of months later, with disappointing sales reports now in for about a quarter-year’s worth of the “bigger & better” format DC had inaugurated in June, publisher Carmine Infantino prepared to make some course adjustments. The most significant upcoming change would be to the format itself (more on that later), but there were other indicators of Infantino’s efforts to staunch the bleeding as 1972 got underway; for example, Green Lantern, one of the signature series of DC’s Silver Age, was cancelled with its 89th issue, shipping in February. As for the titles written, drawn, and edited by Jack Kirby, with which DC had clearly hoped to clean up with sales-wise following Kirby’s 1970 defection from DC’s chief rival, Marvel Comics: Jimmy Olsen was removed from Kirby’s purview with the 148th issue (which, like GL #89, came out in February); and while Infantino wasn’t quite ready to pull the plug on Kirby’s three remaining titles — the core books of the star creator’s interconnected “Fourth World” epic — he appears to have been determined to take a more active role in guiding their respective directions than he had before. If the King could ever have been said to have had free rein in managing “his” comics at DC (and that’s by no means an indisputable statement), that day was over. Read More
In March, 1972, the eighth issue of Mister Miracle picked up right where #7 had left off. Having voluntarily returned to the dark god-world of Apokolips with the aim of formally earning his freedom through trial by combat, our titular hero, aka Scott Free, had been taken into custody by the forces of Granny Goodness — as had been his friend, ally, and fellow former inmate of Granny’s “orphanage”, Big Barda. But while Scott was taken away to the mysterious Section Zero to face an unknown fate, Granny ordered that Barda “be returned to the female barracks”.
And that’s just where we find Big Barda on the first page of MM #8 — though the precise manner of her arrival is probably not quite what Granny had in mind… Read More
Following two episodes set either on the ocean waves or on the god-worlds of New Genesis and Apokolips (the latter also being set many years in the past), in the eighth issue of New Gods writer-artist-editor Jack Kirby brought the action back to the city of Metropolis for the first time since issue #5. In doing so, he was required to pick up plot threads that had been left dangling ever since that issue, published six months earlier, as well as to re-introduce a significant new supporting character not seen since then. Of course, Kirby being the master storyteller he was, he could throw you right into the middle of the action — as he does on the very first page of #8 — and you’d find yourself acclimated almost immediately, even if you’d never read any previous issue of New Gods, let alone remembered the details of issue #5: Read More
As the year 1972 began, Jack Kirby had only two issues left to go in his Jimmy Olsen run. According to Mark Evanier (one of Kirby’s two assistants at the time), the writer-artist-editor hadn’t been enjoying the assignment all that much, and it’s probably safe to assume that he wasn’t sorry to see the end of it. Nevertheless, before making his exit from the “Superman family” of DC Comics titles, Kirby would take the opportunity to deliver on an implicit promise regarding the Man of Steel which he’d made his readers at the end of Forever People #1, published a little over a year previously… Read More